Don’t buy into this self-improvement con

What’s wrong with this picture?

cat ready to pounceThere’s a world of self-improvement and how-to experts that tell their stories and give their advice in ways that imply that all you need to do is one simple thing and you will be as happy and successful as they are. Or worse, change a single thought and you’ll be as happy as they are.

Only if you know the back story, you might know they’re not as happy as you are, and their success came from paying a price you’re not willing to pay. Like telling others how to be "as happy as they are" when they’re feeling empty and alone. "Just do what I did!" they’ll say. If you know the back story, you know why their words don’t ring true for you. 

That’s when your role models become the cat and the elderly lady next door who manage to make life work in simple ways. Somehow, their very being is good advice. And they’re too busy being themselves to tell you how to be.

What’s right with this picture?

But there are plenty of successful people worth studying who earned their way to the top by seeking true excellence. You might not recognize them right away, because they’re quick to let you know they are works in progress. They’re humble enough to genuinely want to learn from you. And they might not give advice at all, but somehow you leave with answers even though they only asked questions.

And they’re not going to suggest that excellence doesn’t take practice. They know it does. 

Is it harmless? 

The tragedy is that many people invest their money and energy into emulating people who imply what they did is easy and you can do it, too. If they had honest representation, they might have made a different choice. They feel like they failed because it was supposed to be easy. The problem must be them.

Excellence takes practice

So know that improvement in any area takes time and practice. If you’re into it whole-heartedly, your practice will be easy and pleasurable – but even then you’re likely to come up against walls where you’re tempted to give it up. Is there such a thing as overnight successes, pivotal moments and magic bullets? Sure. They happen. But even "overnight success" usually is the result of deliberate ground-work and practice laid out over time.

So don’t buy into the self-improvement con that marketing experts have found sells a lot of books and courses. If what they’re telling you is working for you, go for it. But if it doesn’t ring true, don’t assume the problem is you. 

Excellence takes practice. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

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